Markey

Last Wednesday, Senators John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act, which primarily would require greater transparency from data brokers about consumer information they collect and sell.  At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing held on the data broker industry in December, Rockefeller expressed concern that data brokers operate “behind a veil of secrecy” and with “very little scrutiny and oversight” in a multibillion-dollar industry that handles large quantities of personal information.  A majority staff report released in advance of the hearing found, for example, that some data brokers sell information to other companies that identifies financially vulnerable consumers or individuals with serious health disabilities.  In most cases, however, there is no mechanism for consumers to control or correct this information.  In its March 2012 report, the Federal Trade Commission called on Congress and businesses alike to increase the transparency of and control over the practices of data brokers, specifically recommending targeted access-rights legislation and industry self-regulation by data brokers and their first-party buyers.

The Act represents not only a response to the FTC, but also the culmination of Sen. Rockefeller’s efforts of the last two years to create accountability and access to what he calls a “booming shadow industry.”  The bill defines “data broker” as any “commercial entity that collects, assembles, or maintains personal information concerning an individual . . . in order to sell the information or provide third party access to the information” and imposes the following requirements.

Continue Reading Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act Introduced By Senate Democrats

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing entitled, “What Information Do Data Brokers Have on Consumers, and How Do They Use It?”   Committee members expressed interest in bringing about greater transparency to what information is collected by data brokers and how it is used at the hearing, which consisted of a single panel of witnesses from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, the World Privacy Forum, Experian, and the Direct Marketing Association.

In advance of the hearing, Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) released a majority staff report summarizing the Commerce Committee’s investigation into how data brokers collect, compile, and sell consumer information.  The staff report notes that data brokers serve a beneficial function in enabling companies to provide customers with products and services specific to their interests and needs, but that certain data brokers “operate with minimal transparency” and that consumer profiling can raise “unintended privacy issues.”  For this proposition, the staff report cited media reports that a major retailer had developed a pregnancy prediction model to enable the company to target marketing towards expectant mothers. 

According to the Committee’s staff report, a perceived lack of transparency may present further concerns when data broker information “end[s] up in the hands of predatory businesses seeking to identify vulnerable consumers, or when marketers use consumers’ data to engage in differential pricing.”

Senate Commerce Committee members generally echoed these concerns at yesterday’s hearing.  For example:

Continue Reading Senate Panel Examines Data Broker Industry; Releases Staff Report

Last week, the California legislature passed one of the nation’s most restrictive bills governing law enforcement’s ability to access location information.  Under the California Location Privacy Act, state and local government agencies would be required to secure search warrants before obtaining historical or current location information for any electronic device.  The California bill would curtail some of the law enforcement practices described in this New York Times article, which noted that cellphone carriers responded to 1.3 million law enforcement demands in 2011 — many of which came in the form of subpoenas, emergency requests, or other demands that can be less legally burdensome to secure than warrants.  

The California bill contains only a few narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement, such as responding to a user’s 911 call; with a user’s informed, affirmative consent; or in emergencies involving immediate danger of death or serious physical injury.  In the final round of amendments, the bill’s sponsors added an immunity provision for providers of location information: the Act is not to be construed “to create a cause of action against any foreign or California corporation, its officers, employees, agents, or other specified persons, for providing location information.”

Continue Reading California Legislature Bans Warrantless Location Tracking

Earlier today, members of Congress and regulators gathered for a symposium on “The Impact of Media on the Health & Well-Being of Children.”   Participants included Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA), Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jon Leibowitz, Chairman, Federal Trade Commission, and Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission, as well as researchers and members of the public interest community.  In response to a question, Chairman Leibowitz informed the audience that the FTC expects to issue a revised Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) Rule by “the end of the year and hopefully sooner.” 

During their remarks, Congressmen Markey and Wasserman Shultz each expressed support for the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011 (H.R. 1895), which we have blogged about here.  The bill would expand privacy protections for minors under the age of 18, including a prohibition on the use of personal information for targeted marketing to minors and a requirement that website operators provide “eraser buttons” to enable the deletion of personal information shared publicly by minors.  Senator Blumenthal also indicated that he was supportive of the legislative proposal, which he described as “common sensical,” although he stated that there likely would be substantial concern among advertisers and other stakeholders about implementation issues.

Continue Reading Members of Congress Examine Impact of Media and Marketing On Children

Yesterday, Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), Co-Chairmen of the Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, released letters they received from three college testing and preparatory organizations — ACT, Inc. (response), College Board (owner of the SAT) (response part 1, part 2), and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions (response)

Representatives Edward Markey and Joe Barton recently introduced the “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011,” which would expand and modernize the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and also would introduce new privacy protections for all minors under 18.  

COPPA currently prohibits operators of websites and online services from knowingly collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under 13 years of age without parental consent.  The Do Not Track Kids Act would, among other changes, expand COPPA to cover online and mobile applications and to protect unique device identifiers such as IP addresses.

Separately, the bill would establish new privacy rules to protect minors under 18.  If enacted, the bill would prohibit the use of personal information for targeted marketing to minors, require express consent from parents or teens prior to the collection of geolocation information, require operators to provide a means to delete personal information shared publicly by minors, and require covered entities to implement a “Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Teens” that would be influenced by the Federal Trade Commission.

After the jump is a summary of the bill’s key provisions.

Continue Reading Markey and Barton Introduce “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011”

Although concerns about locational privacy are hardly new, recent developments suggest that policymakers and government officials are taking a close look at the privacy issues raised when geolocation data is collected via smartphones.

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that a federal grand jury in New Jersey is probing the data collection practices of smartphone applications.  According